Sunday, November 20, 2011


My Favorite Special Beef Mami 

Quiapo is a word almost synonymous to the gargantuan edifice of the parish church; I hear people use it in direct reference to the church itself which is actually the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, similar to those who use “Baclaran”. For the many devotees this is the defining landmark of the place amidst of the teeming life that surrounds it. And why not, Quiapo’s life is almost centered to the Church whether one is a devout catholic or from a different sect, merchants, jeepney drivers, barkers, lotto fanatics, tourists, beggars, and so on. Life and commerce gravitates around it.     

I, too, frequented Quiapo. I go there mindless of the considerable distance that I have to travel from where I come from (I live in Cavite), and with that the nauseating price of the fare. I go there with all the mustered patience that I could summon against the infernal traffic that seems almost both pathetic and infuriating.  Let us say I religiously go there—not the traffic, not the fare hike, not the heat nor the rain could ever stop me—I will go there. However, although I pass inside the church and contemplate about the strange feeling some churches have, which touches me with awe, this is not my destination! It is the small restaurant five stalls away from it—R. MA MON LUK.

My meeting with R. Ma Mon Luk’s noodles was a chance encounter. I was ambling down the streets of Quiapo towards Recto to purchase art materials that I would be experimenting on; there are stores who sell quality products with a wide range of selection at a very reasonable price. As it has been a long day, I could almost hear my stomach grumbling. I was vying for those buy-one-take-one hamburgers that spread across the metro for it promised instant nourishment at twenty-pesos. I know there was one so I looked for it. As I was scanning the area, I glanced at this old restaurant that looked exactly the Chinese restaurants that one finds when watching an ancient Tagalog film. I halted for a second to think. I remembered my father’s stories right on the mangy tiled pathway where I stood. I remember him quoting this very restaurant when he used to dine when he was young. I felt curiosity shot up to my spine. I forgot the hamburger that I crave for and turned to enter.
The sign that marked in the memories of its patron (young and old alike)

The place is aged. Inside, it seems that I took a time warp back to the 80’s (maybe even way back) with its antiquated architecture, the stained tiles, the framed clippings from magazines and newspapers, and the aging walls and swinging brown doors of the kitchen. This place is really from before.

A waiter approached me to get my order. My first order: beef mami, siomai, and their special bola-bola siopao. On my next few visits I ordered their asado siopao special and special mami. The other visit Sang Tuk pao and another mami. Then I tried their ordinary siopao: asado and bola-bola. I ordered everything each time I go to Quiapo until I exhausted every item on the menu.

Now, the taste.

Special asado is my choice of flavor when it come to siopao
SIOMAI. The dimsums here are big. The taste is mild. I find it perfect if you mix it with your mami, transforming your bowl into an instant dimsum-mami dish. Other than that I find it ordinary. Maybe if they serve it with chili sauce the dumpling’s taste would be highlighted. Or maybe if you use the siopao sauce the same effect will ensue.

ASADO SIOPAO. Whether you ordered the special or the regular one you can be guaranteed that the meat inside is flaky, similar to your 3-week-old adobo (adobo tastes better as it grows older) which you have dried up and chunks reduced to crumbled parts of the diced meat. Different from all of the asados that I have eaten, it is not too sweet, in fact the saltiness balances it. I especially like the mildness that does not overpower the mami (they are a “couple”). Add the sauce to it and the taste heightens even more. For me I add hot sauce to it which really bolsters the flavor. The only difference is that the special order has salted eggs inside.

BOLA-BOLA SIOPAO. The filling of this siopao is ground pork meatball comprised of a little chorizo (finely chopped), and their balanced taste of seasoning—not too strong and not too overpowering just so it compliments to whatever mami you will be ordering. Salted eggs comes with the special one.

Special mami is served in two bowls: one for its soup, the other for the mami.
A closer look to this savory dish
SPECIAL MAMI. The special mami that you will order will come in two bowls: one for the soup, and the other for your noodles with its broth. I was very impressed with the serving of their mami, the meat: steamed diced chicken and slightly fried chopped pork  is one-third the volume of the noodles which means had there been any rice I could have made it into a viand (this is how sometimes you could eat mami on the streets). The scent is reminiscent of a seasoned broth that boost with calamansi. Actually, it works perfectly with it. And a hint of a lingering sweetness is present in every spoonful or slurp of the broth. The noodles are firm and not soggy. I like chewing into its texture it offers a slight resistance to my every bite.

BEEF MAMI. When I was served the beef mami, the scent maybe compared to those of braised beef’s. The beef and its broth are served at the top of the noodles. So here you will taste the two sauces one from the beef and from the broth of the mami. You could literally see the beef broth mix with the lighter mami broth, like yin and yang so to speak. I have NEVER tasted nor seen a mami done this way. The hint of sweetness of the beef concoction lingers in the tongue that makes you crave for more. Mouthwatering. And like the special mami, I swore I could have had it with rice with all the beef that was served along with the noodles.

As I was waiting for my bill when I went there for the first time, I read one of the clippings framed on the wall. It was written by F. Sionil Jose, one of my favorite Filipino writers who met Mr. Luk when he was still alive. And his story was one of those success narratives that I admire.

1918, Mr. Luk or Ma as he was called boarded a merchant’s ship bound to the emerging nation which is the Philippines to try his luck and earn a fortune. Having no place to teach or maybe there is nothing to teach in this foreign land—he was a teacher in Guangdong—he peddled food on the streets of Manila. Perhaps, he knew that without the mastery of the native language the best way to reach the people, his prospect clients, has to be done differently. It has to be through food where we do use our tongues but without words and in such regard we are all equal.

He walked on the streets selling his egg noodles with two big metal canisters supported by a sturdy wood placed on his shoulders; the first canister contained his noodles where he cut with a pair of scissors as he served them along with the meat, and the second canister contained the flavored broth heated with charcoal at the bottom. He sold his noodles to students, workers, and every one regardless of their social status. In the absence of commercials and PR works, he frequented establishments and promoted his own products by giving out free samples of his siopao, he also befriended the influential people at that time: senators and even the late president Elpidio Quirino. And as time passed his name was etched and became legendary—he was the MAMI KING! From his name Ma, and from the Chinese word “mi” for noodles his famous culinary masterpiece was named in his respect. Until today we use the term without even knowing his influence. We peddle mami on the streets as he did. We made it available to everyone as did he.

More than 50 years after his death on September 1, 1961 his restaurant remained an institution that boasts not only of great food but also of history. One could still see the influx of people: young and old, politicians, writers, even movie stars eating the famous combo of mami and siopao. 

Furthermore, as some of the waiters and old customers conversed, in this place, nothing has really changed. It is the same old comforts that they could afford. It is the same place that was recorded in their unwritten memoirs: in their triumphs, their loves, and even in their failures. And that this place in return bore witness to the changing life outside its four-walls that are mute from language but could only correspond, just like Mr. Luk when he first set foot on this land, all contained, more than just the noodles, in a bowl of his mami

When I dine nothing remains.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Artwork by the author
“When the game is over, the king and the pawn go into the same box.”
-Italian Proverb

DEATH is one of—if not the only—the single most powerful word that man has come up with in its entire existence! It is used to define that of which we could measure—by pulse, and other medical machines—the tangent means, and those that is veiled in mystery. Death in this manner could be both finite and infinite. In the finite, Death is confined to the ceasing of heartbeat, the end of pulse, the termination of bodily functions, in this area people, regardless of religion, reach a unanimous acquiescence to.  While in the infinite, Death is regarded as a doorway: to heaven, to the Kingdom, to Olympus, to reincarnation, to hell, to Hades, and what have you.

The effect of this word has stirred the governing morals, philosophies, acts, policies, in different civilizations across time. It has remained a great influence amidst the ever changing pages of history. It is never outdated! It is used in so many ways: as a threat, to control, in religions, a cuss, as an ultimate form of sacrifice.  Death’s semantic power is lent to the entire human race no matter their stature is in society. 

I view Death in as much as the same manner that everyone does. I define it in its finite and infinite meanings—what it is in medical science, and in its literary and mystical connotations.

A friend mentioned the other day—the “game” I am responding to—that Death is one of my “loved” topics. And as I gawk in a nook where my mini library is, I could see that random titles are dedicated to its study. And having read, contemplated, and having seen, there is another definition of death that led me to realize that for the most part of my existence on this planet, that while I am here, I am nonetheless—DEAD!

I see dead people like me. They are on the streets, they attend concerts, they buy things, they eat, they sleep, they marry, they attend seminars, they work and earn hundreds to millions. They are everywhere. And yes they do not notice.

Sorry, I am no Casper and I do not have a third eye (or at least an active one). However, this form of death, this definition is both different and encompassing from the earlier two. Let me share it:

“Death is the inability of man to live.”

And yes, here, by taking this gist a lot of us died long before death could claim us. Our heart might beat, our chest might take in air, our mind sending synapses, and our organs in full functioning but here I ask: is this living? Is the ceasing of our heart’s beat, our one gasp of breath the final act of Death?

Some of us would readily embrace Death because out there another life awaits. After here, there is the reward, the rest, the repose, the vindication that we have prepared ourselves for. For others Death is the reset button or similar in pressing the ctrl-alt-delete keys simultaneously. Man feared death for centuries, but I say man feared Life more.

Why not? Life is filled with uncertainties—Changes. It is tainted by heartaches and betrayal. It is plagued by despair and humiliation. And the loneliness that lurks is as haunting as ever. The world in itself is bedeviled by these elements. So we hide in the shell of fear and regret. We cower from the madness and chaos that tests us. In turn, our dreams are abandoned because the road is dark and fogged. We give up our dreams because it’s impossible. We succumb to the lies of commonness in all the remaining sands in the glass. We trade Life for Safety and the Known, and this in turn injects us with fierce venom that kills us instantly. And here, the many dead are amongst us.

The third definition is by far the most lethal, the most excruciating, the longest, and at times contagious. But with this death, there is always the other side of the coin. With this we could always come back and live. And to be able to do so we need to realize and experience that Life, amidst the dark and unknown waters that we need to thread, is also unexpectedly beautiful.

And before we go to the graves of our love ones, light a candle before their names  etched on marble, perhaps it is only proper to ask ourselves: have I truly lived?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Of Gifts and Expecting

Artwork by the author

One of my college friends started a 30-day project in which we are asked to respond—in any media, in any way that we could better express ourselves—to the questions or other forms of media that she would give us; she is using Facebook as venue for a group of some twenty people to reflect on each others’ response; she believes that the site can be of better use, instead of all of the usual things that we could see, and my friend being a Christian chose to relate her project in Jesus’ relevance to our lives. I participated not because I am a devout Catholic but because I believe that the Divine could participate in a very pragmatic manner in which discussion would help us better understand.  

The first weeks prompt pervaded in me with much awkwardness; the question: what do you expect during gift giving sessions? Instead of me thinking of something, memories of my childhood flashed back into my thoughts, or rather relived in my mind.

The year is 1996—I was a kid again! My birthday is near; my parents asked me what I would want most as a gift. Without any hesitation—for I do remember even now what I want—rubber shoes, no not like any other rubber shoes, I wanted Dino Lights! Back then, everyone is wearing them: my classmates, my neighbor, even my senior. It was the craze of the time, the fashion (like iPad, Facebook, and hair rebonding)! I imagined myself wearing the shoes, running while the lights flickered with the speed of my pacing feet. It was a certainty that I would get the shoes. My parents, after all, were serious when they asked me that question, which turned on a thousand light bulbs above my head.

They went to the mall on a Sunday; malls then are not too common (I like it best that way, not the mushrooming SMs that sprouted out of nowhere). They went to Plaza Fair, which is the Rockwell of that era. Earlier, they asked me to get a measure of my foot, which I traced in a bond paper. It was only a matter of time, a thought that I rejoiced over. When the doorbell rang that night, I ran as fast as I can to unlatch the gate and welcomed my parents. And there they have this huge rectangular box it could only be one thing—my shoes!

It was my shoes alright! I was jumping with joy, thanking my parents to no end. However, when the box flipped, it was no Dino Lights but sturdy yellow hiking shoes. My heart was chipped. I was disappointed. Yet I have to keep my smile, I know my parents paid for it (they rarely buy us stuff). And for the succeeding gift-giving occasions it would be so. One Christmas passed and I didn’t get the toy that I wanted. The other time, I didn’t get any worthy of note. There was a time when I have to write to Santa Claus—inspired by the ABS-CBN cartoon, which they air every yuletide season—but even Mr. Claus is too distant. And as we grow up, it is as if gifts are not malleable to our own desires and wants.

I have realized that gifts are blessings that too often shadowed for something that we desired for. We tend to look at the things that we want to get, not what we already have; gifts are a reflection of the people that has given them to us, which for me means that material value is not as important as the person giving them. There is a quote in a book, whose title escapes me now, it says, “a friend is enough a treasure one can acquire in a lifetime.”

I believe that the Unseen Hand gave us, and is continuously giving us gifts be it people (those who nurtures us, and those who tests us), opportunities, situations, experiences, toys, books, things, talents, skills, jobs, dreams, health, and most of all our breath. We just need to look at it as such. I may have seen this in the hard way, or am still telling myself to see whenever I choose not to or can’t. 

Nowadays, I could, though I am not saying always, look at gifts not in a manner of expecting but rather of accepting.

*kids (and those that think they are) should still write to Mr. Claus for fun. :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Owning Creations

*a clip from The Philippine Star that unveiled the owner of the sun
Our society too often defines us based on what we own.  The world appears to be a huge property to be coveted for, as if by taking a parcel of it under our name bit by bit we are led closer to peace, success, prosperity, happiness, completeness, and all of those abstracts. Our existence is based on what we could own. While this is inevitable—there is a need to own no matter how simple our definition of it is, and I will not be a hypocritical about it—there are some owners that are pretty farfetched. There was one who declared himself as the emperor of USA; Joshua Abraham Norton I is the first and only monarch of the entire United States of America. Lands are named in the name of kings and queens, by tribe or faith. Some already claimed ownership of the celestial bodies: meteors, asteroids, comets, planets. Even our billion year-old sun has an owner. She lives in Spain.    

Although we could laugh about it, shrug our shoulders and turn away from these outrageous entertainment (for this is what it is for people—entertainment), there also exist something wrong in this context.

We need not to move beyond our atmosphere, in this country we could see this kind of materialism. Islands sold from person to person, ignoring the people that lived there long before their fathers could learn to walk; look at Fuga island, islands in Palawan, and other places in this archipelago. Land owned in rapacity, and even self-righteousness, is plaguing this country (and the world). And what frightens me is that mostly they are considered legal.

A friend once commented about ownership that lingered in my head. “How could we own something that is older than us…that existed before us?”

Truly, more than the bounds of the laws, ownership should not only be legal but should also be, in every sense, moral.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Divided by Faith—but still, Brothers!

Religion joins the few and divides the many. This is the belief that fortified within me from the years that passed. When I was in fifth grade, I had a friend, and as it was then, living in a small town affords one to chance acquaintances, most especially at Sunday masses, and since we lived nearby I decided to look for him. On the Sunday Masses, I searched fervently for my friend yet for naught, every mass session i coaxed my parents to go varying the schedule every week. How big is this edifice anyway? Why can I not see him? And as we drove away from the church not a semblance of his shadow paced my vision.
I was bewildered: how could we miss each other? The church only had around twenty pews then, and come communion every person is visible in the long line leading to the altar. I brought this up to him and the mystery has been unveiled, we have different religions—he is a protestant and I was catholic! It is then that the realness of difference in faiths sprang to my consciousness.
Later as I grew up, I witnessed people from all walks of life denigrating those that have different names of worship; this apparent chauvinism could be seen on those shows aired on television only to defend the bastion of their interpretations and customs, putting down another to go up higher. This self-righteousness irked me. How could this be a way to save us from the rupture? But still, what do I care about this. I am far from their chasms. I could turn the remote easily. I could shrug my shoulders at a debating fanatic. Who gives a fiddler’s fart about this? I don’t. For all I believe is that it is not the confessions that you make nor the prayers that you sang communal that matters but it is the relationship with yourself and the Almighty that will solely determine one’s salvation either from this earth’s carnal disintegration or from those that Death would gladly bestow without  reservation. 
In spite of my apathetic stance—perhaps borne from the laymen’s unperturbed cacophony of mores or from my experiential realizations—this collective separation cannot be ignored for the tumult it creates provides a threat for dismemberment not only for people, but for this nation as well. More than the unspoken caste that hounds our people, wars have been waged and fought for this sake. And yes, we could easily point our fingers to Mindanao—the Moro wars.
Regimes, administrations, has passed like the years that withered into decades (maybe in another millennia still) the conflict between the Muslim separatist movement fighting for an independent Moro nation is still left unresolved, like a wanton courtship between the government and the revolting faction, honeyed by peace talks yet often led to bloodshed; it is often annotated as a Muslim­-Christian conflict.
What are they really fighting for? Why do they want to separate? By so doing remove a star from the half-risen flag, maiming it forever. I hate to see the Philippine map fade, the archipelago reduced. And if so do we need passports to go to and fro. Then we will endure to forget the favourite line, “…mula Aparri hanggang Jolo.” Truly, the effect of that separation would be equal to castration, even to impotency to progress. I hate to see them go—a nation divided! Brothers at war!
But who am I to stop their so called independence? Who am I to tell them—or any one in that matter—to stop and accede to the government? Who am I to tell them to remain? I haven’t even plodded my feet to the land they so fervently fought, and whose rights they give their life so wilfully. I haven’t even bled a single drop to their cause nor spent an hour with them—how could I understand! I am alien to Mindanao, alien to the brothers I avidly trace on the map. Perhaps I know more about America than of this fallow land. Aren’t we all in the Metro the same? Too, those in the south knows more of Malaysia for there it is more real; Sabah is nearer than Manila anyways. Perchance more akin to other Muslim nations even to those across the endless deserts and jagged seas. 
There are a lot of peace treaties that has convened yet these are mere negotiations that fell short. There were different pacts discussed but still this war waged on, claiming lives by the hundreds, leaving people homeless, their stomachs violently churning, their mouths frothing. And when a loved one dies¾by accident or by fighting—a sense of repulsion, fear, worse of all, hate is injected in the hearts of those who were left. With this cycle a new Moro will replace the dead, a new soldier will replace the ranks of those who was decimated; the Moro dies a faithful martyr, the soldier a gallant hero. Yet always, and always it was a deadlock. More so, although blood has spilled the soil are they really enemies?
Once I have read that it is not the difference in religion that sprang war but disparity over land. More than what the Moros claim of ancestral domain, it refers to the soil that is tilled, the soil that nurtures man, the soil that provides. I believe this is so, too. Adding to that it is the neglect that the Moros in Mindanao have faced, far from modernization—aloof (might be self-implicated too) from progress. While Luzon is crammed by buildings, malls sprouting out of nowhere, edifices are meek and scarce in most areas of the Muslim region, at least those which are functional and opt for public. Hospitals, roads, schools, libraries, transportation these are gifts of development scarcely reached even to the proximity of the war-torn area.
Aside from the blooming suburbs and condominium units, malls, schools in the city—if you would like to define progress with it—Mindanao has been left emaciated. Its growth stinted, the structures that they built reduced to rubbles. Illiteracy,hunger, health are identified not only to the government’s inchoate policies which are not sensitive to the real needs that needed addressing—and please, clear-cut policies not the patch-me-up projects (though sometimes it as all that can be done for the moment). While those in the seats of power, those politicians championed attention in these concerns, none of them, though, really did action, ningas cogon—all words, little action.
This is a regurgitating betrayal. Here is one clear cut reason why these things has never been resolved after decades and decades of dialogue for the people seated are—in both sides—not sincere enough to listen, their agenda is always a hidden constrict at the back of their minds. There will be no enough deaths; no amount of blood could stop these macabre for generations are born anew. They will take oaths and swear duty under the flag and to their faith. Discriminations will never end, more so the war. I heard one of my religious friend say, quoting a passage which, forgive me I cannot recall where nor could I rehash impeccably, it says, “if I fought for God nothings is against us…how could we lose?”
But when will we win? Before the many dead that were sent to the ether.  Before the children that may never learn to read and write.  Before those who bore the ancient odium that blinded them with power and sanctimonious dogma. Before the land that stood silent witness to the hearts of men that flung dead to her cause and accepted them as they return to earth as earth. Before us are lives that never be. Aren’t all these enough a loss?
No matter how seemingly desolate the situation is, I believe that there is still hope for understanding, for peace. We have known war for so long, especially the Moros but yet not the peace we fought for subsisted. But as long as we have hope, new minds shall be conceived—both from the womb and in one’s own experiential incubation—grasping the realities that we cannot see now, opting for a better way that was averted and ignored. Then a longing that one day this nation would rise above this part of our history, breaking the chain of hatred and glum. Thus, allowing people to see that we are all given breath by the Unseen Hand, placed before some distant islands. I know, though we are divided by faith, we still live under the same home. We are still brothers!  

*photo by the author

Monday, July 4, 2011



I slumbered deep into the apathies of my comfort. For 26 years I was raised knowing so little of the travails and hardships of living except those that academics imposed and the inanities of my childhood concerns. Having said this, it is by no means to rob the color and disparage the importance of my experiences for it did gave me my identity, which I cannot deem to extinguish and I am powerless to alter; history cannot be undone no matter how petty it is.
                The reason I mentioned slumber is that during our sleep we are detached from reality and within these vaulted years―even when my inquisitiveness about our past, and the swelling distaste of the affairs in our country mounted―I remained distant from the realities in our society; these realities I was hid and protected from, by my family. I did not live like as a prince would have had but we have katulong―helpers as the term imply, shared work is what should be provided―they, ironically, did everything for us. These people labored for us, catered to our every whims, patient with our erratic personalities and eruptive tantrums. In short, they did all of the work that we should have done together, and enjoyed so little in this separateness.
                There is nothing devious or alarming in this arrangement; it is as common as any middle-class household in this country―the magnitude is tenfold with the elites where uniformed maids come in platoon, even with ranks. But recently, I’ve felt the necessity to free myself in this kind of setting. I felt the comfort, minute as it is, is suffocating me, that the chores in the house are not as important as the tasks in the office and the readings in the university. It is not the chores though, it would be ludicrous to rant about that, but instead what is being plodded has been always selective. It is also to say that this way of living protected me from a far greater reality that protrudes away from home―that in this antiseptic treatment denied me the totality of experiences that I should deal, that I should suffer, feast over, enraged, troubled, anxious, defeated, and joyful with. And yet outside, the world is much, much more.
                This country is much, much more.
                And perhaps in this cave of our security media is the only vista to reality―but they are no different. They are half-asleep too. They could do better. They could go and traverse the frontiers of this society that has remained unchartered.
                I must admit that it is a great instrument to unearth the truth: the facts, evidence, and use of creativity to educate the greater impoverished populace. It is a tool for unity; understanding between cultures could be initiated. The faculties of expression are also in multitude that could be used to capture the audiences across our diversity. Surely, it is an important tool for imparting knowledge which we starve from.
                However, the giant networks that has the greatest reach and influence did nothing but cater to their prosperity, focused on their own competitions and marketing; the small ones are even worse, they are propelled by religious ministries hollering dogmas out of the somber air or private denizens boasting their opulence. Although these elements―marketing and profit―are inseparable from business they should have ventured farther and fearlessly to the education of their viewers, mainly the masa who considers television and radio one of their indispensable luxury.
                Of course, we could see the noontime shows or other programs, their hosts doling out money in barangays. They are welcomed inside people’s homes―shacks patched with palo china scraps, rusted iron roofs, plywood, and whatever to conceal the holes with. Some are lucky to live in a decent environ, with cemented walls and iron roofs that do not leak. And in this shows, one apparent character is the interview. Always they try to unearth the bones in the grave that delivers one to the brink of tears. They try to console them and act like messiahs of prosperity.
                Observed and scrutinized these philanthropic acts are arid and hollow. They are rooted not from genuine concern for humanity but rather to demolish the competition and to heighten their ratings. AtingAlamin is one of the few genuine programs that I know of because they empower people by knowledge not by money. They provide variation rather than sari-sari store package alone. Also, shows that ventures farther are represented mostly by the documentaries, reportage from our respected journalists―Howie Severino and Kara David just to name a few―gives an authentic touch to their work and a much needed depth in research for a spine. These shows stir the imagination and affixes heart in their deed without the showcases that is showered aimlessly.
                But programs like this―those that imbue choices, alternatives―are less patronized. Perhaps it is the lack of capital, and the labor that comes along herewith is incomprehensible. What would it do to people mired in poverty? Could it ever compete to the allures of the opiate the other shows provide? Or is there ever a need for alternative if they only wanted is to get by in the day? Isangkahig, isangtuka way of living. This is the hidden face that they tried to mask: stars that cannot act, money that exudes a blind hope, and the earnings a station should capitalize.
                However, what more vicious, ghastly creatures there exist than those flaunted in the government and other public seats. We could see them even in our small gallivanting. We see muddied pigs dressed in posh barongs, designer suits, and gowns that they wore with such casualty. They work on projects―why they should have been elected in the first place―then they put their condescending faces, printed in costly, gigantic tarpaulins paraded loftily with their smiles as phony as their campaign slogans and the lame, irksome jingles that plague the air during election campaigns. Truly, without shame! Is there more to be said? For everyone is already aware of their crimes, but yet we are, we feel powerless to defeat this malaise and cancer that retarded the government, hence the nation.
                As I speak of these, I beheld no power to defuse this ticking bomb that slowly implodes in everyone. No one can―NO ONE MAN CAN! I would like to say: no one ever tried. But there was Rizal, martyred too early. Bonifacio betrayed by his fellow revolutionaries. The other unsung heroes across our history rotted in penury, their cries forgotten. Here, no one ever lived long enough to see the fruits of unity and prosperity, neither of equality.
                Is this why we are poor?
                I don’t know if we are poor because we have been ravaged by three nations. I don’t know if we are in mendicancy because of the opportunist snakes working in our government and other public seats. Nor was it because of the conspiracies of landlords and tycoons for personal economic advancement. Was it because of the endless wars waged against our communist brothers in the mountains? And the moros in Mindanao?Or is it because our population quadrupled in the past decade, while our resources depletes? Is it because of the dwindling importance to education? With all of these I am not certain.
                What I know is that there are more fashioned as I am. There are many who are still slumbering within their own comforts, strewn across the nation. A prominent writer, who I look up to, F. Sionil Jose augured and herald that the greater part of change should come from the middle-class, that it is in their class, in particular the youth that would beckon the change in the society―to serve as the ram in the ideal revolution promulgating true transformation―because they have the means, the space to move about in that direction.
                While I belonged to a middle-class Filipino family who is spartan in most days and extravagant during occasions; we can afford education even at the expense of drudging work; we can purchase the new clothes and other things even by scouring crumbs from the meager allowance. Yes, we have more space to move, more freedom for action. Yet I am sorry. We are no beacon of change. We are no light to a revolution. On the contrary, we are poor because my kind, my class pervaded, dwelled in the cool modern nooks of our homes without the thought, without the genuine concern to our motherland―Filipinas.
                I am sorry because we haven’t done anything to provide the strength to move your wheel, the wheel of the nation that has been stuck in the quagmire. We worry of menial things: our college degree and our corporate job hereafter; the ascension in the blue-collar ladder; the latest trends in technology, the things that we could buy; our dates and dreamt-of marriage; our house bills and paunches that need to be filled. All of these are inadvertently imposed on our living, and that we should be responsible for its provision. But we stop there. We halt because we don’t know where to amble. We halt because we are afraid of the very step to take.
                We are afraid of the cross of this country. We could see in the horizon that it is being heaved from atop by the oligarchs and elitist while at the bottom the dishevelled, emaciated bodies of the masses, the poor. And that we don’t know if we would be stepping, trampling the people who are already suffering or would we be crushed by the oppressive weight.
                We have not done anything because we will be threading in unknown waters, where the waves are engulfing, the hue dark and crimson. We are afraid because we might drown in spite of our ideals, sank at the bottom without nothing, that before us a lightless tunnel. So we grasp whatever ropes of security we could reach. We fear that all of that we have and will have will be gambled for naught.
                I am sorry because of the lethargy that I face my duties with, a duty set aside for too many a year. I procrastinated from action, and I grumbled from the bedevilled society we are in―I hated the politics, I whine about the lack of opportunity, I cuss about the metropolitan traffic, and I lash out from the scarcity that is omnipresent in this godforsaken land.
                I am sorry Filipinas! Your poverty roots from too many devils from our history, but you are poor because the children you expect to give have not. They have denied you of the love that you deserve.
                Although if it is not too late, if I could open my eyes deaden from sleep, maybe I could see clearly your face. If I touch the wound that has festered for generations, maybe I could feel your pain and your suffering. If I start to believe in the hope that the sun and stars in the flag represent, maybe I could understand the difference of our people and maybe the light of justice too. If I act from your love, maybe you could impart the knowledge of your ancient burden, and the opportune chance of vindication. And maybe one day, if there are more who have done so too, maybe my beloved motherland, you shall be redeemed. 

Illustration by b. ryan rañeses, III